GLENDALE â€” After a one-year hiatus, the Crescenta Valley High softball team regained its perch atop the Pacific League standings last year.
And with its core of players back for another season, the Falcons appear primed to make it two in a row.
Crescenta Valley was the lone area school to qualify for the postseason last year â€” falling to Fullerton, 1-0, in a CIF Southern Section Division III second-round game â€” but an influx of new coaches has other area teams filled with optimism entering the 2008 campaign.
Glendale, Hoover, Holy Family and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy all are counting on first-year coaches to turn their respective programs around, while Flintridge Prep will look to a bevy of young players to carry it in the Prep League.
Crescenta Valley has earned at least a share of nine out of the last 10 Pacific League crowns and with a roster that boasts three Division I-bound players, the Falcons will be one of the favorites again.
â€œWe should be strong,â€ said Crescenta Valley Coach Dan Berry, who is entering his 11th season. â€œWe have most of the team back. I'm looking for us to be very competitive on the season.â€
Leading the charge for the Falcons will be the past two All-Area Softball Players of the Year in junior shortstop Baillie Kirker, who has verbally committed to Arizona, and senior first basemen Ashleigh Viers-Gordillo, who will play at Boise State in 2009.
University of California-Santa Barbara-bound catcher Lainey De Pompa and junior pitcher Kali Cancelosi, both first-team all-league selections last year, will comprise the battery for the Falcons. Outfielders Stephanie Ziemann and Caitlyn Cox will add some punch to the always potent Falcons lineup.
While Crescenta Valley has talent all over the field, Berry is quick not to discount the rest of the league.
â€œBurbank is going to be very good,â€ he said. â€œYou can't rule out Burroughs. Arcadia will be tough. Glendale has a new coach, so their emotions should be high. You really can't rule anyone out.â€
At Flintridge Prep, Coach Julie Jamie is hoping this is the season her young club can put it all together.
Webb has moved back into the Prep League, giving it seven teams and, as a result, four automatic berths into the playoffs.
â€œWe are really looking to get back into the playoffs this year,â€ said Jamie, whose team finished 3-9 in league last year. â€œI think we are going to be very much improved.â€
The Rebels' offense will rely heavily on junior second baseman Kate Beck, who hit .448 in league last year, senior catcher Kari Van Horn and sophomore infielder Emma Vine. Lydia Kay, a second team all-league selection from a year ago, will be the Rebels' leader in the circle.
At Sacred Heart, Kirk Nishiyama takes over for the departed Dennis Williams.
The Tologs missed out on the playoffs last season after qualifying the year before and will return just two varsity players in 2008.
The Tologs should be solid on the mound, as junior Jessica Ferri, a second team all-league selection a year ago, will anchor the pitching staff.
â€œWe have a lot of question marks position-wise,â€ Nishiyama said. â€œWe have Jessica on the mound and that's a good place to start.â€
Outfielder Amy Leos, who belted a team-high six home runs last season, and catcher Meghan Luera should bolster the Tologs' lineup.
Glendale Coach Christine Paknik, a former Nitros player and 1998 Glendale grad, has been on the job less than a month and is hoping to hit the ground running.
Paknik will have the luxury of building her club around senior pitcher and shortstop Amy Bishop, an honorable mention all-league selection in 2007. Second baseman Sam Dickens, catcher Tatiana Mejia and pitcher Courtney Williams are also expected to contribute big numbers this season.
â€œWe expect this to be a building year,â€ Paknik said. â€œWe just want to stick to the basics and keep it simple.â€
Keeping it simple is also on the mind of first-year Holy Family Coach Marlene Sandoval.
Sandoval, also the school's basketball coach, takes over for the departed Victor Diaz and is still feeling her team out.
â€œAs far as I'm seeing, it's gonna be a lot of work,â€ Sandoval said. â€œWe have four of five returning players. For the rest of them, it's just concentrating on building them up to par with the rest of the team.â€
The returners Sandoval will look to for leadership throughout the Horizon League season will include senior Lauren Arteche, sophomore Rebecca Martinez and sisters Melissa and Clarissa Romero.
While first-year Hoover Coach Rich Henning also isn't exactly sure what to expect from his Tornadoes, he does like what he's seen so far.
â€œThey just hustle,â€ said Henning, a longtime travel softball coach. â€œThey work, work, work. They are a scrappy group.â€
The Tornadoes lost two honorable mention all-league players in Catrina Flores and Sara Campos, but Marissa Mauerhan, Anarosa Aguirre, Stephanie Arreola and Marissa Vasquez are expected to help fill the void.
Sisters Jessica Kong and Glenn-Hayley Kong and sophomore Christina Iezza will share the pitching duties.